19 September 2015

Critical Meltdowns of a Neurotic College Student

Several posts have been staring at me for the past few months (i.e. Mass Effect 3 review), but I can't seem to get them anywhere. Instead, I'll be productive by talking about a few things that have been eating at my brain for a long time.

This semester has me focusing extensively on Japan: two history courses, a few mentions in other social science classes, and my attempting to teach myself 日本語 in my free time. So far I'm doing fine and I'm enjoying what I'm learning, and if it weren't for 汉语, I'd be more lost on Kanji than if I started from scratch. That said, having learned jack and shit about Asia as a continent of diverse cultures and countries has set me back tremendously. I'm still ridiculously ignorant about the Asian political scene, thanks in part to my being American and having been drowned in European ideologies and thought. Making any kind of comparison or acknowledging similarities between an Asian country and a Western country sometimes feels like it'll come across as childish at best and offensive at worst. Add the fact the United States downplays any kind of relationships and issues we have had with Japan at any point and time and I feel like I'm staring at a mountain too steep and dangerous to climb.

"But, Fangirl," you'd ask, "what's the big deal? Clearly you're putting more effort into this than some Americans, so why complain?" Well, setting aside the existential angst I'm continuing to suffer thanks to inconsistent and fragmented data on job prospects for college kids in the US, I overthink everything.

Then you'd probably ask again, "So what?" or long-time readers would say, "Obviously, so tell me something new." Sad to say it may not be new, but I'm definitely someone who overthinks things because I want to be about 99.9% sure I know what I'm getting myself into. While I am determined to become bilingual someday, I suffer the paralyzing fear of making a fool of myself. Be it mispronouncing a word, misunderstanding what someone says, or speaking an unpopular opinion, I prefer to sit and do research all day to prepare to share what I've found than jump out and assume out of the blue.

At this point it's becoming a double-edged sword, if not an Achille's heel for me. One would think a twenty-one year old should know by now what they want to do and work to get their goals met. I'd like to think I know what I can see myself generally doing out in the work force, but a large cloud of pessimism lingers over my head from my own insecurities and the plague of fear and paranoia I'm seeing all over the place.

The other night I had to watch the Republican "debate" for my political science class, and I initially hoped for genuine debate on national and international policies to help the US to get out of the economic rut we've been trapped in for nearly a decade. If anyone saw my Twitter blow up into a storm of swears and insults, you probably know how I felt about the whole ordeal. I'd love to give the media and American politics a chance to not resort to immature food fights where half the food is full of toxic waste outlawed years ago and stale mold that induces hallucinations... but then we have Donald Trump be as popular a talking a point as the Kerdashians and I'll seriously considering fleeing this country if that bigoted orange haired monkey sits in the oval office.

Even if I manage to avoid talk of that awful person, I hear how every single Muslim has to die because of terrorism, which we helped fuel and set fire to, dear America, how making a nuclear deal with Iran will somehow allow the planet to self-destruct, and how we should bomb every problem away without restraint. Meanwhile, Syrian refugees have nowhere to go because their country is ablaze and Europeans are just as Islamaphobic if not worse than us. The world economy is still out of sorts despite the recession being "over", and now China is starting to feel some of the downs. Millions of millennials in numerous first world countries still can't get work worth a damn because economists don't calculate the number of work-eliogible people who gave up searching in the terrible markets. Oh, and Japan has passed new defense laws that defy their constitution despite that over half of the people don't want the military to expand, possibly get sucked in the "necessary" wars the US started, and potentially destroy any calm that is left in the Pacific Ocean. And rather than have college kids study history to see any patterns and predict if any major wars can erupt between the major powers, let's axe the humanities and prop "lucrative" vocations and majors because who gives a shit about communicating effectively to the common folk, thinking critically, performing research, and saving lives?

... I seriously hope this is all a part of some kind of phase we can recover from, because it's scaring me.

Let me backpedal before people get too angry. There is nothing inherently wrong with the STEM and vocational fields. Those kinds of jobs will always be needed for the people who can perform that work well. We need to know how to build more efficient technologies, create medical advances, and solve problems in a logical manner. We also need people who know how to maintain plumbing, electricity, and all sorts of common devices we take for granted. People need to know how to build and renovate buildings so nothing falls to waste and irrelevance. I get and admire that. For a few years I wanted to be in medicine because I have so much respect for doctors who ensure people are healthy, well-nurished, and safe from innumerable illnesses.

But the thing that I've been noticing is that people are telling my generation that we need to invest in STEM fields because that's the only way we'll have a job. I'm sure I was born in the wrong generation because I never believed that making money is the sole reason to work. In my mind I believed in studying and building skills that complement your talents and interests in work. If you're mathematically inclined and love it, go for that the degree that'll give you those skills. If graphic design is your interest and biology is your weakness, then don't pick a STEM major for the sole sake of making money. While you do need to have skills that are practical (i.e. public speaking, critical thinking, logic, writing, etc.), there are far too many kinds of jobs one can obtain that can provide you a reasonable wage. Some people - particularly humanities people like me - have to be more creative in how we get somewhere, but we're not doomed to toil on the streets. (Hell, I've met STEM graduates who can't find work either, so it's not just a humanities problem - it's an economic and social problem.)

There are a few reasons why I close Anthropology as a major, and one of them is that I continue to see how people fail to communicate clearly and effectively. History and analyzing past events are called worthless, and yet entire groups of people forget past atrocities and allow new ones to emerge without resistance. Some people radically reinvent interpretations of rules and ideas to pass along convolutedly designed or written policies that need a professor to read even years after the policy is put into effect. Most people don't understand what anthropology is or why anyone should bother about attempting to understand cultures, and yet I see people cheer when Donald Trump unapologetically calls Mexican immigrants rapists on TV. While many have admitted it's due to their inexperience than racism, whites repeatedly insist that all Asians look, talk, and must be the same, just as all blacks are loud thugs, and all non-English speakers are stupid and backwards. It's very important to have math and statistics to record trends, but to complement this someone with a critical mind has to understand what questions were asked, who asked them, and why some people refused to participate in the data collection. For example, it's nice that a female Viagra is out (even though it affects brain chemistry and not blood flow to the crotch), we need to understand why some women are against it and if the drug needs improvements.

From the limited point of view I'm sitting in, I see the US blinded by fear and extremism, a phenomenon I see traces of everywhere else in one way or another. Moderate and cooperative views are signs of cowardice and treason. Being objective, double-checking facts, and apologizing when one makes a mistake hardly exist anymore in places where people once expected such ideal standards. We are more interconnected via the internet, and yet we strive for isolation and our own self-interests to extreme and sometimes near-sighted degrees. Some people have subscribed to ideologies of not asking questions in the fear of being arrested, attacked, or humiliated into silence. Say one thing wrong to the wrong people and your personal information is plastered on a billboard for hit men to find their next job.

There are dozens if not hundreds of issues worldwide we are ignorant of or have no clue how to resolve, and I can confidently tell you that I'm just as stumped as everyone else. Sorry, Disney and fairy tale children stories, but one person alone can't push a mountain that has stood for thousands of years. But that being said, I'm not going to stop trying to figure out how I can do something productive. I know that having a desk job from 9 to 5 in a business will more than likely make me miserable. I know I can't save lives through medicine because I can't tell you how any of the thousands of medications work. Give me a calculus problem and I'll have a panic attack. Tell me to be a physicist and I'll fall asleep and dream of the cool new things we're discovering in space.

But if you ask me about the political situation in England for example, I'll look up a few books and websites to read, look up professionals who studied that topic, pay attention to the news, read comments from Brits and non-Brits, and engage in some dialogue. Ask me about video games and I'll go on for a while on the industry, its practices, its controversies, and the subcultures that formed around the medium. While the methodology can be more subjective than what mathematicians deal with, I'll gather, analyze, and discuss data I've found to gauge a situation and find what needs improvement and what doesn't. It'll take many years until I become an expert in a field, but I'm willing to spend time and energy absorbing information and asking questions until I can understand and know what actions to take to help the world.

Until then, I might have to travel and take "low-paying" jobs and volunteer work to get a head-start in a career. So long as I travel and have enough to buy food, clothes, a roof over my head, plumbing, and electricity to charge my iPod, I don't need to be a millionaire with a mansion. So overrated.

In the meantime, back to Japanese.

私は学生です。... Geez, I miss typing in Chinese... not so easy anymore...


Anonymous said...

The world is not looking too good atmo.
I think the thing about Islamophobia in the u.k is that the first arrivals might be nice smiley faces.
But the the future will bring more terrorism at home and more work/money for our security services tracking the future offspring of these refugees.
Islam will never change ,so what are we supposed to do ?
Some parts of our inner cities are heaving from way too many immigrants .
We're a small country that needs a lot more time to integrate new-comers.
So instead we end up with ghettos and zero integration..

Melanie~Light said...


Terrorism is indeed a serious issue (which my country unfortunately added to for the worse for everyone), but the methods of finding terrorists is still inconsistent and unreliable. Anyone and everyone has the potential to become a terrorist, regardless of faith, ethnicity, ideology, nationality, economic background, etc. There are even non-Muslim young people worldwide joining terror groups because they are disenchanted with their lives. But Islam is such a huge target of ridicule at the moment because of the decades of political and social instability, wars, and the rise in ideological extremism. Islam, like Christianity, has had years of tolerance for others through history, but the recent century - at the earliest - has not inspired warm feelings for all.

I don't believe there are as many terrorists (and future terrorists) in the Syrian refugee population as some claim, but the global community should attempt to resolve the issue by temporarily giving many of these people places to live. Someone turned down might become a terrorist because no country helped find him a home just as someone who was given a warm bed can become a terrorist. From a humanitarian perspective, no one can know for sure and that worry alone is not enough to not offer a hand.

If helping some refugees diminishes the chance of their children becoming terrorists, it's a risk worth taking. How that ideal can be implemented is another story due to some of the reasons you provided. I agree with you in that blinding accepting all refugees is extremely impractical and can be idealistic. Some countries are too populated or cannot afford to bring in people legally in a short time when usually the process takes months and years. Money is always a problem, as is finding reasonable housing and resources. How refugee crises happened in the past have not always been pleasant, consistent, or successful, but we can always try to do better with the power and resources we have.

... In an ideal world the Syrian war end and life improves for the country and resolve the crisis... but the world is an infuriating and confusing place.

Anonymous said...

I'm a different anon than the one before, to clarify. I hope no offense is taken from this (since civil discussion is rare on the internet).

Anyway, I think Europeans generally treat Islam well enough and are generally open-minded about it. There were stories of a French scientist (Maurice Bucaille) and the story involved him validating or adding to a Qur'anic prophecy about the Pharoh's body being preserved (there's quite a few prophecies that, as a modern society with more knowledge, we are able to verify today; the media doesn't really care about Islam one way or the other, though, so the websites you're likely to find on the subject are either pro-Islam website or edgy antithesists trying to prove that these professional scientists are somehow wrong about their assertions). Anyway, my point is that they are at least open-minded enough to consider such a possibility, and I am not certain if I can say the same for America.

Melanie~Light said...


No worries! Civil discussion is hard to come by (and I know I've had my moments of immaturity and weakness), but I do appreciate the comments to get different perspectives on things.

That's understandable. It's next to impossible to get a middle ground on Islam, given how both the religious and non-religious can go crazy over their and their opponents' ideas. (Rest in peace, moderation.) Though it is nice to see some scientists attempting to examine religious stories and prophecies in a respectful manner.

I have heard that some European countries have laws forbidding Muslims from wearing religious clothing in public, but I will look more into it rather than declare such a statement fact. My knowledge of European culture is still rusty thanks to less than five years before college dedicated to minuscule info on Russia, Canada, and Europe. From what I know, such laws have not passed in the US (though the "religious freedom laws" used to condone "threats" such as gays and non-church-goers have troubled me). And I will agree that the anti-theist vs theist debates have not helped much, given how limitedly both sides approach Islam and religion in general.

In my foreign relations class, we found that many areas of major conflict have many Muslim populations, but there are dozens of other factors in why violence is so prevalent and democracy is so hard to bring to fruition: poverty, territory disputes, history of imposed cultures by a variety of major powers/empires, limited natural resources, political corruption and instability, centuries of unresolved diverse ethnic disputes, etc. I'm not sure how Europeans discuss world history and politics, but both mean nothing to the US education system, which might explain how ignorant and trigger-happy we get over everyone's problems.

It seems like there aren't enough open-minded people, and sometimes intellectuals can be difficult to work with. Now we need more individuals and people - regardless of nationality - with critical thinking skills to make attempts at objectivity - or balancing the pros and cons of black-and-white world views - to get any work done locally, nationally, and domestically. Baby steps, tho.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'll have to retract that statement about Europe being tolerant, at least after reading http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/13/pork-school-dinners-france-secularism-children-religious-intolerance?CMP=fb_gu . Bernie, from the debate, is at least likely to focus on issues that are more important than things of that sort (and hopefully enact some positive change in America).

And yeah, there is some scientific examination regarding religious texts. It's an interesting topic, but kind of a flawed idea since science adapts to new observations and religious texts are intended to be eternal.

Melanie~Light said...


Oh, what the hell, France?! The blunt way they discriminate against Muslims is either amazing or stupid. Thank goodness people are protesting and speaking out about it. Honestly, they should just have there be a vegetarian option or the like, even when there are only a handful of days when pork is served. No need to drag religion into the mix when it's not needed. Anywho, I wasn't trying to mention specific countries before, but I knew about France's laws against wearing outwardly religious clothing (i.e. headscarfs) in certain public spheres. So that article made me sigh and shake my head. Just... goddamn it, France! TT^TT

As for Bernie Sanders, I agree. He has finally received time on national TV to get his message across; I never heard an audience screaming their hearts out in approval like at that debate. Unfortunately the force-fed message that Hillary Clinton is the only candidate b/c woman and wife of Bill is trying to kick Bernie out prematurely. Still if Bernie managed to at least encourage others like him (moderate, liberal, progressive, socialist, whatever) to stick to their guns and talk about the topics the news and politicians refuse to cover, then he won in my eyes.

I also agree on your last point. Science and religion come from two different schools of thought, after all, which is why watching scientists and creationists "debate" is a nightmare and a half. I appreciate a small, irrelevant olive branch between the two sides, but not much more from an academic perspective.

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